The myth that the All Blacks are a running rugby side was exposed in Christchurch last night - it was their clever and constant kicking game that set up this win over France.
Actually, there was running involved but most of that involved chasing the well-placed kicks.
It was that sort of pressure, added to the all-important field position, that set up the opportunities.
There was a fair bit of criticism of the All Blacks kicking in their rusty win against France at Eden Park last Saturday. The absence of Dan Carter's field-kicking was sorely felt.
What a difference a week makes. And they used a multi-booted approach to make up for Carter's continued absence.
The All Blacks have kicking options throughout their backline.
Halfback Aaron Smith, first-five Aaron Cruden, fullback Israel Dagg and wing Ben Smith all have powerful boots.
They weren't shy to use them last night.
And what about the delicate chip by Ma'a Nonu to set up the opening try to Julian Savea. Nonu's vision was great and his execution pin-point perfect.
When kicks get a team into the right areas of the field, then a team like the All Blacks have the deadly runners to chime in and finish the job.
It wasn't just the kicking that improved in seven days either. Several players did as well with their general performance. And top of that list was Dagg.
What nonsense to hear the calls for his head. Dagg is a world-class player with a rare range of skills and a proven match-winner. He revels in these situations and it showed. His positional play last night was spot-on, he was superb under the high ball and took his options well.
Ditto Savea, the wonder wing who some were suddenly questioning.
There was plenty of pride in this All Blacks effort, highlighted by their defensive stanza just after halftime when the French threw everything at them.
To hold them out and eventually turn the ball over and score a try at the other end of the field was a telling statement and, really the match- clinching moment.
So that's the series, now we might get to see the All Blacks make a few changes for the dead rubber in New Plymouth next week.
Hansen was right to give the starting side a second chance to rid the rust. He largely got the response he wanted.
If some of these new faces are to have a role in the looming Rugby Championship, now is the time to blood them against what remains a very competitive French side.
- Sunday News
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